OUR reporter John Hassall documents the rise of women’s boxing and gets an exclusive interview with female boxer Nadia Ratchford.

2012 was an iconic year for UK sport. Andy Murray became the first Brit to reach the Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938, Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win the Tour De France and on their own turf, Team GB had their most successful Olympics ever (until four years later at Rio). It’s fair to say however, that 2012 saw one sport grow more than any other: the sport of women’s boxing. Not only did the sport become an official Olympic event for the first time, it showed that it could captivate an audience and generate the same excitement that is present in the men’s game. I spoke to amateur boxer, Nadia Ratchford who helps run Liverpool University Boxing Club about why she took up boxing, the meteoric rise of the sport and what its future has in store.

What Made You Want to Box?

For Nadia who has boxed since the age of 13, it wasn’t the Olympic legacy that led her in to the ring. “I think what drew me to boxing was the extreme levels of fitness it involves. It sounds so cliché but I remember watching the Rocky films and then Million Dollar Baby and being amazed at the fitness it demands of your body and at the lengths you can push your body.”

“I liked the challenge of doing something that few people felt females should be doing.”

The silver screen may have played a part in drawing her to the sport but that wasn’t the only thing that made her put on the gloves. “I didn’t only want to start it due to the fitness aspect but I think I liked the challenge of it being a particularly male dominated sport that women were not expected to be involved in. I liked the challenge of doing something that few people felt females should be doing.”

Women’s Boxing in 2016

Today, women’s boxing is dominated by the spearhead figure of Irish legend Katie Taylor. Taylor who earned gold at London 2012, had a mixed 2016 after failing to retain her Olympic crown this year in Rio, going out in controversial fashion at the quarter final stage to Mira Potkonon. That disappointment clearly didn’t set her back too much however with the tenacious Taylor beating Karina Kopinska after just three electrifying rounds on her professional debut. Taylor then went on to defeat Viviane Obenauf on December 10th on the undercard of the highly-anticipated Joshua – Molina fight. With the fight being watched by millions and with her loud and loyal Celtic following behind her , Taylor grasped at her opportunity to take women’s boxing to the next level.

The sport has not only been getting more attention on television however, as Ratchford has noticed more women taking part in the sport at an amateur level. “I have certainly noticed in the classes that I run now more and more females are wanting to give boxing a go compared to when I started to box and there were only two girls in the whole club.”

She attributed the huge growth to not only the likes of Taylor and Nicola Adams bringing more attention to women’s boxing but also put it down to the breakdown of stereotypical gender roles. She said: “Girls are no longer expected to pick up only ballet or netball, more girls are choosing to enter into sports previously only dominated by men such as rugby, football and boxing.”

What’s Next for Women’s Boxing?

After beating Kopinska on her debut, Taylor’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, said: “Forget women’s boxing, it’s just boxing.”

For female boxers, that must be next step: to lose the “women’s” tag. These women are athletes who put themselves under the same amount of tremendous physical and mental pressure that male boxers do and as such should be treated equally. Boxing is boxing whether it’s a man or a woman in the ring. The positive for female boxers however, is that boxing fans will appreciate anybody who can put up a good fight and entertain, it’s just up to the governing bodies to catch up.

“A lot of people postpone going to the initial class because they don’t know what to expect however, it is never as bad as you think. They are not going to throw you into a ring and ask you to fight somebody,” she said. “You’ll start from the basics and build it up one movement at a time so you’ll never be out of your depth. The most important thing is to just give it a go!”

By John Hassall


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